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It's perfect, so leave it alone

Published 28 March 2010
News Review
871st article

Michael and Geraldine on the terrace of the Palace hotel, Gstaad, with Gildo Bocchini (Michael Williams-Jones)

Andrea Scherz, owner/manager of the Gstaad Palace hotel depressed me. I was having a cosmopolitan cocktail in its marvellous lounge. Massive picture windows looked onto snow and the mountains. A log fire. Leather sofas. Like a scene from an Agatha Christie play.

On coming down in the morning I always expect to see the body of a newly murdered guest. Then wait to find out whodunnit. Until I was the only one left. So I musta dunnit.

I fantasise because the reality of Andrea's remark was so awful. He said casually, "We're going to redesign the dining room." I've never known any hotel redesign improve on what was there before. Look at the Dorchester, Claridge's, the Connaught for scary examples.

The dining room at the Palace is wonderful. Comfortable chairs, a dance floor with a six-piece string orchestra alternating with a band with brass and keyboards playing standards.

"Why change it?" I asked.

"People don't like eating in the outer room," said Andrea. The outer room leads to the dining room. It doesn't have the same view of the dance floor and upper Italian restaurant. Guests feel isolated.

"Well, if you must," I said, "do that area quite differently. Decorate it with photos of the many famous people who've stayed here." They've had everybody, some even more famous than me.

The next day Andrea said, "My father thought it might be considered vulgar to put up photos of our famous guests."

"Vulgar?" I said in amazement. "The Splendido in Portofino does it, so does La Reserve de Beaulieu. No one could call them vulgar. In spite of their displaying a photo of me."

The Palace is triple superb because it's a real, old-style, grand hotel. The food is marvellous. Among things I ate were turbot with champagne sauce; grisons barley soup with dried beef; sole done in two different ways; great desserts. All immaculately served. The restaurant manager, Gildo Bocchini, is the best. The chef, Peter Wyss, is outstanding. The food is simple, tasty, charming.

Only dud was a spaghetti bolognese served in the Italian restaurant, Gildo's. It was the worst spaghetti bolognese I've ever had. Spaghetti, mushy; meat sauce, turgid. Peter Wyss did one in the normal hotel area that was fantastic. The Italian one was by a supposedly good chef who did a winter stint there while his hotel in Italy was closed.

Sitting on the Palace terrace in hot sun with 8ft of snow a couple of yards away is one of the delights of the world. Gstaad is unspoiled. The food at Bernie Ecclestone's Hotel Olden is also very good, as it is at the Sonnenhof, perched on the mountainside. It all looks as Switzerland should. Wooden chalets, fields, towering mountains.

Please, Andrea, keep up the standard. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Forget the redecoration. Unless my photo goes up, of course. I could give you a set of 20.

  • For years, out of habit, I used Forever Living products. Creams, toothpaste, assorted twaddle. They're not in shops, but sold by people who take the order and supposedly see it's sent.

    The first salesman was useless - kept going away, never seemed to check his emails. I phoned head office. There, Hellen Priest assured me she was very reliable and would see everything I ordered turned up speedily.

    I emailed an order later. Hellen was at a sales event. She said she'd be in her office on Monday, four days later, and would deal with my order. On Monday she wasn't in the office; she wouldn't be back until Wednesday. I gave up and cancelled everything - my order, music, art, piano lessons, the will to live.

    These people are paid by twits like me buying products. There's masses of similar stuff on the market-better priced, efficiently distributed. Forever Living indeed. More like Forever Waiting.

    PS: Boots has a couple of creams, No 7 Protect and Perfect beauty serum and Simple Kind to Skin replenishing rich moisturiser, which topped the poll in big non-Boots surveys. Massively cheaper than Forever Expensive. I'm using them. Already I look five years younger. In two weeks I'll look 26 at most.

  • I had a spectacularly good lunch at Mosimann's in Belgravia, a club owned by the chef Anton Mosimann. The food was not overcomplicated. Duck sausage, a marvellous ravioli, good bread and butter pudding.

    My host, Peter Wood, just bought esure from Lloyds Bank. He told me so many people are making false claims, backed up by bent doctors and lawyers, that insurance prices will go sky high.

    Even more serious: Peter doesn't like the Winner dolls which have apparently passed various safety tests. I'm getting 100. Press my face and I say, "Calm down, dear" endlessly. I'll give one, occasionally, to our best letter writer.

    Peter's considering a new commercial with me and my assistant Dinah May. He liked me shouting "Dinah!" in Michael Winner's Dining Stars. "Dinah! Get ready for your close-up, dear. You'll be a star." If not, too bad. That's show business.

    Michael's missives

    In last week's photo, why has Geraldine got her finger in her ear? Is it to reduce the noise of the engine's fan, or is she trying to avoid listening to whatever rubbish you're burbling on about?
    Nick Jones, Provence, France

    What an honour for the Everglades crocs and gators to be visited by someone with a bigger appetite than themselves.
    John Finegan, Bailieborough, Ireland

    Overheard on your Everglades trip. Alligator: Ever tried human meat? Second alligator (looking at Mr W): If it's that old you can't chew it anyhow.
    Edward David, London

    The photo with your two carers in Kingsand, Cornwall, showed the exact backdrop which has hung on our lounge wall for years. Thanks for solving a long-standing curiosity.
    Peter Bewsey, Hampshire

    Please bring your friend "Sir Rog" Moore down next time, Michael. We'd like to add him to our Museum of Celebrity Leftovers. Something cheesy perhaps? Your exhibit of lemon drizzle is still very pert and on the shelf- a bit like you?
    Michael and Francesca Bennett, The Old Boatstore, Kingsand, Cornwall

    As a lady of mature years I want to show my admiration for your courage. A man of talent who is prepared to display his descent into feeble-mindedness to the viewing public is brave, or very foolish.
    Kay Morgan-Capner, by email

    Send your letters to Winner's Dinners, The Sunday Times, 1 Pennington Street, London E98 1ST or email michael.winner@sunday-times. co.uk

    Your chance to dine with Michael You are invited to an exclusive Winner's dinner at the Belvedere, Holland Park, London W8 on May 11, 2010. Join Michael Winner and The Sunday Times's editor, John Witherow, for a champagne and canape reception, a three-course dinner chosen by Michael with wines to match, and a signed copy of his book Winner's Dinners. There is easy, free parking. The evening costs £150 per person. To book please call 0844 412 2953 and quote "Winner's dinner".